Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version



American Journal of Political Science (August 1996) 40(3): 632-659.


Copyright 1996, University of Wisconsin. Used by permission.


Theory: Cultural differences drive significant elements of political and economic life.

Hypotheses: (1) effective govemance hinges critically on traditions of civic engagement; (2) political culture fundamentally drives economic performance and democratic stability.

Method: Reanalysis of two data sets: (1) the first includes information collected by Putnam (1993) on a variety of political, economic and social indicators for the 20 Italian regions; (2) the second includes comparable information collected by Inglehart (1990) for the industrial democracies.

Results: We find little evidence to indicate a systematic relationship between political culture and political and economic performance.

Ever since Max Weber, many social scientists looked at the 'right' cultural attitudes and beliefs as necessary conditions ('prerequisites') for economic progress, just as earlier theories had emphasized race, climate, or the presence of natural resources. In the 1950s, newly fashioned cultural theories of development competed strongly with the economic ones (which stressed capital formation), with Weber's Protestant Ethic being modernized into David McClelland's 'achievement motivation' as a precondition of prog- ress and into Edward C. Banfield's 'amoral familism' as an obstacle. According to my way of thinking, the very attitudes alleged to be preconditions of industrialization could be generated on the job and 'on the way,' by certain characteristics of the industrialization process.